If you didn’t know how good a basketball team the Washington Wizards were before they beat the Chicago Bulls, in Sunday nights Game 1 of the Eastern Conference playoffs, you know now. If you didn’t remember how good a player Nene was at one point in his career, you remember now. If you were unaware of either of these facts, it’s ok. It’s not like the Wizards have had any primetime, national tv appearances. So, besides living in the Washington D.C. area or having NBA League Pass, how could you know? The point is, you know now, and so do the Chicago Bulls.
The Bulls came into this 1st round series deemed the favorite by most. Mainly, due to the fact the Bulls have a lot more playoff experience. However, sometimes pure talent wins out. That’s what happened Sunday night, as the Wizards stole home court advantage away from Chicago.
Washington, is stacked with young, talented players like John Wall and Bradley Beal, however it was the contributions of Nene and Andre Miller that proved to be the difference. Not even an accomplished defender like Joakim Noah could slow down Nene. The veteran power forward scored 24 points on the evening, and was a terror on the boards. Miller’s performance wasn’t necessarily sparkling on the stat sheet, but his play was key in getting the rest of the team settled down and into a rhythm after Wall struggled early. Miller, did score 10 points. Eight of them in the 4th quarter.
The scoring was spread around nicely. In addition to Nene, who led the scoring, there were five other Wizards in double figures. The Bulls built as much, as a 13 point lead in the 3rd quarter, but could not sustain it. The Bulls seemed to fall in love with the fast pace of the first half, where they scored 54 points. The pace of the game was much more comfortable for the younger, more athletic Wizards.
Although, the Wizards came away with the victory in Game 1, they did so despite sub-par performances from their talented back court. Wall, and Beal combined for 28 points, but all in all did not have their best games. If, Wall and Beal find their rhythm outside, to go along with the play of Nene and Marcin Gortat inside, the Bulls will be hard pressed to match them. It’s no secret that the Bulls have trouble scoring and lean heavily on their defense. Outscoring the Wizards would be a tall task.
For the Bulls to even up the series, and ultimately win it, they will have to keep the game at a pace they’re more comfortable playing. The way to do that will be through their defense. But, will that be enough? Finding more scoring has to be a priority. Whether, it’s through Carlos Boozer or Taj Gibson on the inside, or Jimmy Butler outside.
One thing in the Bulls favor, is they’ve been in this position before and for the most part, the Wizards haven’t.. We’ll see which team handles this situation the best Tuesday night…….